Mercenaries and the Congo Crisis

Mercenaries have existed as long as organized armies and for as long as they have existed they have been despised and denigrated. Aristotle wrote against them,[i] as did Machiavelli.[ii] Yet there has always been a “market for mercenaries.”[iii] In the mid-20th Century’s best market for mercenaries was the newly independent Republic of the Congo, indeed Africa in the 1960s was a “golden age” of mercenarism.[iv]

This paper will examine what were the specific circumstances during the Congo Crisis of 1960-67 that precipitated this new heyday of the mercenary and what where the responses to this new mercenarism? Mercenarism as a military, political, and economic phenomenon in post-colonial Congo will be examined. By focusing on the Congo Crisis, this paper will illustrate the circumstances that encourage the wide-scale use of mercenary soldiers. Counter-mercenary operations will be examined. Further, mercenarism as a driver for United Nation interventionism and Cold War conflict in the post-imperial Third World will be explored. Lastly, the economics of mercenarism will be analyzed.

[i] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1116b and Politics 1306a

[ii] Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XII.

[iii] David A. Latzko, “The Market for Mercenaries” presented at the Eastern Economic Association Meetings, Crystal City, VA, April 4, 1997 at research/presentations/mercenary.html. (Accessed 18 Dec. 2013)

[iv] Mpako H. Foaleng, “Private Security in Africa: Manifestation, Challenges and Regulation”, Monograph No 139, November 2007, Institute for Security Studies at (Accessed 18 Dec. 2013)

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